by Ian Marshall, Editor
Safe and secure, equally adept from both backhand and forehand, Saki Shibata proved the expert in the art of counter attacking play close to the table; returning serve confidently, she was able to seize the initiative and cover the angles gained by her left handed adversary when attacking strokes were directed wide to the forehand.
However, it was the resolute, determined character of Saki Shibata that shone through, no more so than when trailing 8-10 in the fourth game. Quite simply she played consistently, there was no hint of panic as she maintained the pressure on her adversary; she won four points in a row, it was to prove the critical stage of the match.
Defeat for 16 year old Miyu Nagasaki, soon after it was defeat for 14 year old Shin Yubin; she was beaten in a contest that proved somewhat of a learning experience.
In the opening three games, she made errors when trying to force the pace, she was not able to penetrate the Honoka Hashimoto defensive wall; she had work for each point, show patience. In the fourth and fifth games she reduced the errors, the level of consistency rose.
Gradually, she was becoming attuned to the variations in spin imparted by her colleague, in the sixth game she went ahead 5-2 but was not able to build on the advantage. Honoka Hashimoto levelled at 5-all before at 10-8 holding two match points; the first was saved, not the second.
It is the third time this year that Saki Shibata had reached and ITTF Challenge Series Women’s Singles final this year, she won in Croatia and Spain; it is the same for Honoka Hashimoto but with a different outcome, she was the runner up in Thailand and Poland.